🔼The name Ichabod: Summary
- From (1) אי ('i), a particle of negation, and (2) the verb כבד (kabad), to be impressive.
🔼The name Ichabod in the Bible
Ichabod, whose name is unique in the Bible, is the son of Phinehas, one of the two sons of Eli who was high priest during the apprenticeship of Samuel the judge (1 Samuel 4:21, spelled אי־כבוד, and 14:3, spelled איכבוד).
One day Israel meets the Philistines in battle and the Israelites think it a good idea to bring the Ark of the Covenant along as a good luck charm. Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas accompany the Ark. But since God's blessing is not on the endeavor, the Philistines win the battle, slay Hophni and Phinehas and take the Ark.
When word of the defeat reaches Eli, he falls over backward and dies too. Phinehas' wife was about to give birth and when she hears that her husband and father in law have died, labor sets in. With her dying breath she names her child Ichabod, because "the glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God was taken".
🔼Etymology of the name Ichabod
The name Ichabod consists of two elements. The first bit is the enigmatic particle אי ('i), which in the void of context of a name may mean quite a few things. There are five separate words that all look like אי, four of which are perfectly identical:
There are four different verbs אוה ('wh), which all appear to express a desire or movement toward something. Noun אי ('i) means coast, which has been mankind's preferred place to settle since time immemorial. Nouns או ('aw), מאוי (ma'away), אוה ('awwa) and תאוה (ta'awa) all mean desire. The noun אות ('ot) means mark or sign, and humanity's earliest marks were not to assert private ownership but rather a collective identity: something to draw toward and gather around. Noun אי ('i) means jackal, and noun איה (ayya) means hawk or falcon. These creatures were possibly named after their supplicatory calls, or else their rapturous method of predation.
The conjunction או ('o) means "or." The interjection אי ('i) expresses regret: "alas!" Adverb אי ('i) may serve as a particle of negation ("to be desired" and thus not so), or as an interrogative adverb, meaning "where?", usually in rhetorical questions. The substantive אין ('ayin) expresses negation or nothingness and occurs hundreds of times in the construct מאין (m'ayin), which literally means "from where is not?", as introduction to a rhetorical question concerning something that is true in all known parts of the world: "where isn't it so that such and such, hmm?"
The second part of the name Ichabod comes from the verb כבד (kabad), basically meaning to be heavy:
The verb כבד (kabed) means to be impressive. Secondarily, this verb expresses immobility and steadfastness. This is the verb that is used in the familiar command to "honor" (literally: be impressed by) one's parents. This verb also serves in the familiar term כבוד יהוה (kabud YHWH), usually translated with the "glory" of the Lord, but which may actually speak of that "part" of God which in human flesh (in-God's-image) is called the penis.
Adjectives כבד (kabed) and כבוד (kabod) mean heavy, impressive, very numerous or very rich. The noun כבד (kabed), or "impressive one" is usually reported to denote the liver but may actually refer to an animal's penis. Nouns כבד (kobed) and כבדת (kebedut) mean heaviness or vehemence. Noun כבוד (kabod) means abundance, honor, or glory. Noun כבודה (kebudda) means abundance or riches.
Ichabod's mother names her son as she dies giving birth to him. She is quoted saying, "The כבוד (abundance, honor, glory) was carried away from Israel," but the author adds that she named her son Ichabod also because of her father-in-law and husband.
Curiously, one of the very rare instances that the adjective כבד (kabed) is used to denote actual heaviness happens in 1 Samuel 4:18, where the author writes of Eli, Ichabod's mother's father-in-law, that he was very heavy. Ichabod is named three verses later.
The name Ichabod may mean any combination of the above words, but most commentators propose that the first part, אי ('i) is the particle of negation, and the second part כבוד (kabod) is the noun that means abundance, honor or glory.
For a meaning of the name Ichabod, NOBSE Study Bible Name List, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names and even BDB Theological Dictionary translate this name with Inglorious.